Joey Logano wins Xfinity race at Watkins Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) When it comes to the Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International, it's become Penske Racing's playground now that Marcos Ambrose is no longer around.
After a poor qualifying effort in Sprint Cup, Joey Logano shook off his frustration and won the Xfinity Zippo 200 at The Glen on Saturday, outdueling Penske teammate Brad Keselowski.
Logano, who started from pole, overcame a stop-and-go penalty early in the caution-filled race, drove back to the front, and kept Keselowski at bay after a restart with four laps to go in the 82-lap race. It's the first road course win of his career, 25th in NASCAR's second-tier series, and fourth win of the year.
''It's pretty special as a driver,'' said Logano, who led 39 laps, one fewer than his teammate. ''You always want to have a road course victory. We've been close to winning a lot lately. It feels really good.''
The Penske duo led all but three laps in a race on the 2.45-mile layout that was delayed by seven cautions for 20 laps. Ambrose, who returned to his native Australia after last season, had won the last four Zippo 200s that he'd entered at Watkins Glen, including last year, while Keselowski won in 2013.
Series points leader Chris Buescher was third, followed by Boris Said and Ty Dillon, and leads Chase Elliott by 24 points. Elliott was seventh.
Regan Smith, fourth in points, finished 20th after running in the top 10 early in the race. Smith rallied from early troubles but was doomed to a bad finish after being taken out by Dillon, and the two nearly came to blows after the race.
Cup regular Kyle Larson was running third early in the race and poised to challenge the Penske duo, but he suddenly made a beeline for the pits on the eighth lap with a broken axle on his No. 42 Chevy. He finished 28th, seven laps behind.
It was a challenging day for Elliott. Running fifth early, he skidded off course trying to pass Smith as the cars banged sides in the Inner Loop on lap 15. That dropped Elliott to 25th and his troubles weren't over. He also was penalized and sent to the back of the field for pitting too soon when a caution flag flew eight laps later.
For Smith, the day turned much worse. He was spun out by Dillon on a restart midway through the race and with 16 laps to go skidded into the Armco barrier that lines the track after tight racing with Brendan Gaughan.
Logano and Keselowski took turns leading, and when the race went green after a caution with 20 laps to go Logano was ahead. Back in fifth, Keselowski quickly passed Paul Menard, Buescher and Said to move to second.
Smith then brought out the caution with his spin, leaving the Penske teammates right where they were when the race started - up front.
''These cars can't seem to get away from each other the past three years,'' said Greg Erwin, crew chief for Keselowski. ''I think they'll treat each other with respect. They do a good job.''
That's exactly what happened on the restart, but right behind them Dillon dived to the inside of the first turn and slammed Menard out of the way as the race stayed green.
Logano, who ran out of gas with three laps left while leading the Cup race at Pocono last week, had no fuel worries Saturday. He gained a lead of over a half-second, but that was negated when Gaughan and Kenny Habul clashed on the final turn with six laps left. Habul spun back across the track and was hit hard by Ryan Reed, bringing out a 10-minute red flag and ending the day for Habul.
After the final delay, Logano sailed away on the restart and won by just over a second.
Tempers flared after the race as Smith confronted Dillon, who escaped relatively unscathed from his aggressive drive. Dillon is tied for second in the series standings with Elliott, 33 points ahead of Smith.
Dillon took the blame, but his apology fell on deaf ears.
''He has zero chance of winning the championship, and I'll make sure of it,'' Smith said.